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Greetings PF Community!

We've been quiet for quite some time, but things in Lyantonde, Uganda have not.

Sadly, this is our farewell post as Project FOCUS. Before we go, we'd like to share some highlights from the past few years of community development work made possible through your generous support of our partner organization, ICOD Action Network, and their vision of an Internet center for the community of Lyantonde.

LOOKING BACK ON Project FOCUS

Upon completion of an epic grassroots fundraising campaign, which enabled the launch of the Lyantonde Internet Center in 2010, Project FOCUS assumed, and enjoyed, a quiet role supporting ICOD's operation of the Center. Our goal was to facilitate the start-up, support a sustainable structure, and phase PF out after three years. Those three years have passed. We've been phased. And the Internet Center is alive and well.

Over that time, Project FOCUS was able to offer financial support for operations-thanks in large part to a few incredibly generous donors-without a continuous fundraising campaign.

We are so proud to announce the official transition of all operations of the Lyantonde Internet Center to ICOD Action Network. ICOD Action Network has done an excellent job growing and managing the center since its inception; the dedication of its staff has ensured the success and maximized the benefits of the center for the community of Lyantonde. The Lyantonde Internet Center has a tremendous and indispensable impact on information sharing in and around Lyantonde. It has been a joy to watch ICOD shine.

   

Bringing Solar Internet To Rural Uganda (projectfocus.org)
LOOKING FORWARD WITH ICOD ACTION NETWORK  

ICOD Action Network and the Lyantonde Internet Center have given training to more than 1,000 youth and 375 local farmers, while more than 50,000 people have accessed different services offered at the center. They focus on providing agriculture, education and health information to local community members including teachers, students, doctors and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Two main issues still challenge the sustainability of the Center-the price of Internet service and rolling electricity blackouts. The Internet costs ICOD an incredible $365 dollars a month. Initially it was thought prices would have decreased by now, but Uganda still lacks the infrastructure to provide accessible, affordable Internet. Rolling blackouts make electricity inconsistent, significantly impacting the profitability of the Center.

Despite these two major complications, with the exception of Internet services, the Center pays for itself. Thus far, Project FOCUS donors have risen to the occasion and covered this expense. This will be the first year that ICOD Action Network will be responsible for supplying the Internet, a challenge that they are prepared to face.



STAY INVOLVED! (OUR FINAL REQUEST)

Although Project FOCUS as an organization will no longer be involved, individually we can't wait to continue our support of the good work of ICOD. We hope you will join us. Since our humble beginning in 2006, boldly standing on Michigan Avenue exchanging bear hugs for dollar bills, we've stood by the idea that every small donation helps. So donate now! Their work extends far beyond the Internet Center. Please take a moment to learn more about ICOD and the various ways they impact change in their community and beyond.
  

Stay Updated on the Internet Center and ICOD Action Network by liking them on facebook, checking out their websitechecking out their videos or donating to their current indiegogo campaign. There is only ONE WEEK left to donate!

IF WE HAD KNOWN THEN WHAT WE KNOW NOW

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As the members of our tiny organization grew from novice travelers, to hopeful idealists, to ambitious agents of change, we learned more than we ever dreamed. We learned that international development is hard, tricky work. There are no clear-cut strategies for progress. Unintended consequences lurk everywhere. We learned that partnering with a strong, local, community based organization that respects and values the voice of community is paramount to the success of any international community development project.

We learned that International community development work is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts, sweat, tears and as the members of Project FOCUS know all too well, hours of heated debate. We've come to understand that it is IMG955350worth it. The benefits of this work will always overshadow the struggle. The Lyantonde Internet Center has shown us that small acts matter. We can and must improve how communities produce and consume food. Over the past five years, something as simple as reliable access to information has drastically improved the livelihood of so many. Thousands of farmers are now able design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient food production systems.

We hope that you, and the Project FOCUS community all around the world, join us now in celebrating the development of the Internet Center, the life of Project FOCUS and the small changes that we created together. You changed our lives for the better and forever. We can't thank you enough.

WHERE PFers ARE NOW



Aura continues to work for Chicago Public Schools as a Social Worker. Since 2011 she has supported her husband, Bret Hoekema (a Project FOCUS volunteer in his own right), in his treatment and recovery from Hodgkin Lymphoma. While international endeavors have faded, Project FOCUS has inspired Aura to invest more in her community and taught her that small changes make communities stronger. Additionally, Aura will not be voting Rahm Emanuel for Mayor of Chicago in the upcoming election.

 Daniel is currently living in San Francisco where he's a second year resident in internal medicine at UCSF. He plans on pursuing a career in global health.

Florencia is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco, where she is examining health inequalities, health impacts of trauma and violence, and intersections of race, gender and health.

Gloria currently works as an art therapist in adult psychiatric, teaches kundalini yoga part time and spends time painting. 

Grant is currently pursuing a master's degree in clinical social work at the University of Chicago,and working with the YMCA's Youth Safety and Violence Prevention program, where he is developing a digital storytelling curriculum that assists youth with processing the causes and impacts of community violence.

Harishi splits his time between his small fair-trade clothing line (ishi vest), youth organizing institution (Chicago Votes) and his consulting job with immigrant org. (Accelerate Change).

Madelene is currently living in Salem, Massachusetts with her Ugandan husband Hiller, and their two young children. She recently helped establish a community art therapy counseling center and works as an art therapist and licensed mental health counselor. This past summer, she and her family were able to travel back to Uganda to visit friends and family, and she loved every minute of it.

Mary is a purveyor of cool. She makes her home in Hollywood, but finds herself commuting weekly to San Diego for work. She's an architect working at CO Architects and specializes in enormous health care facilities, but has really designed a little bit of everything. She loves the active life-basketball, bicycles, etc. She returns to Chicago whenever she gets the chance. You should probably try to hang out with her.

Meg lives in Seattle with her husband Seamus  and 2-year-old son. As an art therapist she works at a local agency as a child and family therapist, and also maintains a  small private practice. Making art has continued to be an important part of life, and she spends time in her ceramics studio processing her thoughts, experiences and work. Her time spent in Uganda continues to inspire a greater connection with her family, friends and the local community, and will forever have a special place as life moves forward.

Rhea welcomed her sweet baby girl into the world on MLK day of this year (a future activist in the making???) with her husband Nenad, and spent 2014 teaching Devi Rising, the yoga curriculum she developed to empower tween girls.

Roy is now living in Seattle and is a photographer/ co-founder of Sonder Studios, a commercial and documentary production 
company.

Seva continues her work in community development with ICA-USA, a non-profit in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. She has spent the past few years organizing the accelerate77 project, and working on developing her skills as a facilitator. She continues to work with other small NGO's around the globe on their community development initiatives.

We sincerely thank you for all of your support on this endeavor as our friends, families, and colleagues and hope you will continue to follow and support the center and ICOD Action Network.

With Gratitude, 
unnamedPF, signing off



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Philosophies

Creating a Common Experience: Our goal is to create an open dialogue between people of two seemingly different worlds and break through cultural barriers by exposing audiences to common elements of our human experience.

Building Relationships: Quality relationships are a both a means to sustainable development and an end itself. By using art as a medium of communication and education, we work towards developing personal and institutional relationships among communities within the US, Uganda, and between the two countries. Quality relationships require time to develop. Therefore, we are committed to a long-term and active presence in the communities in which we work.

Quality Over Quantity: Project FOCUS places value on individuals, instead of focusing on numbers and statistics. We have learned that the most meaningful change comes from dedicating more emphasis to the process than to the end results. We choose not to grow in quantity if it conflicts with growing in quality.

Responsible Donorship: We demand a lot from the organizations we choose to work with, but most importantly, we demand a lot from ourselves. As we expect an honest dialogue about projects, intentions and finances within our own organization, we expect the same from our partners. It is both the responsibility of the organization and the donor to ensure accountability.

Responsible Media: Project FOCUS values the strengths of individuals, families, and communities. We believe that life is complex and delicate. To misrepresent such a concept is irresponsible and unethical. It is not our intention to show the poorest of the poor, or the sickest of the sick in an attempt to guilt an audience into action.Rather, in the hopes of inspiring others, we seek to be as accurate as possible when sharing the intimate stories of real people.

Sustainable Development: Sustainable development begins and ends with the community. All projects undertaken by Project FOCUS are initiated, implemented, and sustained by the local community in Uganda. Project FOCUS serves as a facilitator - connecting assets with needs, introducing partnerships, and mediating an exchange of ideas.

 

Process

 

Project FOCUS Process

 

Creative projects

Empower participants by giving a voice to their personal narratives, teach valuable skills to participants that participatns can use in the future, and facilitate callaboration between project focus members and the community.

Exhibitions

Portray complex social issues through a personal and intimate lens, educate, and inspire audiences to generate resources, for the community development projects.

Development

Create sustainable change to address the tangible needs of the community previously identified by project participants, local community members, leaders and activists.

 

Updates

ICT Essay Competition
Fall, 2010

This fall, our local partner ICOD Action Network hosted an essay competition for Ugandan students in secondary school. The essay competition was entitled "ICT a powerful tool," with the objective of assessing students' understanding of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and increasing the adoption of ICT among younger users. Three winners from the competition were awarded "back to school" packages including mattresses, school books, and other supplies. This year's winners, selected by an independent committee of Ugandan school teachers, are Agnes Komujuni, John Baptist Ssenkyai, and Bernard Byakatonda.

Here's a few excepts from the winning essays, organized by topic.

ICT in Schools

"[ICT] can be a catalyst by providing tools which teachers use to improve teaching and by giving learners access to electronic media that make concepts clearer and more accessible."
-Agnes Komujuni, St. Gonzaga SSS

ICT in Homes

"In homes, [ICT] has enabled many people to benefit by playing computer games, listening to music, watching the latest videos, retouch a photograph, and then provides leisure activities to many people that enables individuals to relax for proper working during the next day, thus promoting development."
-John Baptist Ssenkayi, St. Gonzaga SSS

ICT in Businesses

"Economically, ICT promotes trade. Goods can be sold and bought online thus reducing the risks involved as well as saving time."
-Bernard Byakatonda, Ian College S5

Benefit Concert for Internet Cafe
May 28, 2010

Benefit Concert for Internet Cafe in Rural Uganda

Click here for more information.

PF's Internet Cafe Featured in Global Giving's Technology for Good Initiative
March 3, 2010

One of Global Giving's corporate partners, Ericsson, has selected Project FOCUS' internet cafe in Lyantonde, Uganda as one of six projects that they are promoting as part of their Technology for Good giving campaign!

To view our project on Global Giving, click here.

Project FOCUS interviewed on Chicago Public Radio's Worldview
February 18, 2010

Grant Buhr, will speak with host Jerome McDonnell on the weekly Global Activism series about the history of Project FOCUS, our philosophies, and our current development project - a solar-powered Internet cafe in Southwestern Uganda.

Listen to the interview online here

A Nod from Change.org
February 3, 2010

Nathaniel Whittemore - editor of the Social Entrepreneurship blog on Change.org- pens some accolades to the PF process, while reminding us and all social entrepreneurs of the importance of balance when considering scale and personal relationships.

Read the full blog here.

Morgan Park Academy
January 24, 2010

We're teaming up with high school students at Morgan Park Academy and members of the Just Because Initiate to host a concert and art exhibition to support the Lyantonde Internet Cafe. Both Project FOCUS and MPA are looking forward to a long-term collaboration between the students in Chicago and Lyantonde once the Internet Cafe is up and running. The dates/time/location will be announced soon!

Who are we?
January 18, 2010

Project Focus began as a student group at University of Illinois at Chicago, is returning to its roots. Students at DePaul University and UIC are working together on a college campaign to raise awareness and capital for a solar-powered, income-generating internet cafe in Lyantonde. By collaborating with student organizations from diverse causes we hope to rally people together over our common goal to use art and creativity as a tool for development and positive social change. We are excited about the new energy and enthusiasm as we take on the campaign!

New Web Site
January 1, 2010

Welcome to the new Project FOCUS website! After many months of hard work from Project FOCUS members and volunteers Dave Chathas (graphic designer) and Beau Smithback (web developer), we're ready to unveil the new www.projectfocus.org. As PF has expanded over the past 3 years, we have also outgrown our previous website. The original site was created for PF's first exhibition in early 2007. Since that exhibition, Project FOCUS has grown in many ways. Look around and enjoy some of our new content and features. We hope you enjoy the new face of Project FOCUS!